Photo credit: (Jakob Ebrey Photography) Max Coates leading the field on his way to a fourth-place finish at Knockhill in Scotland
The MINI CHALLENGE UK championship headed North of the border to the Knockhill circuit in Scotland for their fourth round of the season at the weekend with North Yorkshire’s Max Coates in action for the Graves Motorsport team. Looking to cement himself as a title contender he needed a strong set of points finishes to help him on his quest.
On the Monday of race week, a number of drivers tested at the track to aid in their preparations, the majority of the day saw wet running with Coates posting promising times and strong race runs. Testing continued on Friday in which the first session saw a number of red flags for issues on circuit and in the second Coates posted the 11th fastest time, yet he remained confident ahead of the weekend.
As the venue’s gates opened to the thousands of excited race weekend fans, Coates in his Primex Plastics sponsored car lined up for qualifying. The session was tense with tenths of a second covering the top 15. With only a matter of minutes to go Coates was down in 14th position but he posted two faster times right at the end to place him 6th on the grid for the opening race later that day.
The JiC Transport sponsored driver got off to a good start battling with Callum Newsham ahead of him. Coates was passed early in the race dropping him to 7th but was in the battle to regain his lost position when Newsham, still just ahead braked too late into the third corner of the circuit. Coates followed suit and this left the door open for Sam Weller to get past. Max eventually crossed the line in 8th place.
The second race of the weekend came on Sunday morning, this time in front of an even bigger crowd at the popular Scottish venue. The MINI CHALLENGE UK supports the British Touring Car Championship whose annual Scottish trip is always a popular affair. After a good start Coates made it passed Newsham in the first few laps with a late braking manoeuvre at the hairpin. Following that he was embroiled in a close race with former teammate Ethan Hammerton before the pair passed local driver, Joe Tanner, as he ran wide into the gravel on the exit of the chicane. With a 7th place finish Coates inherited pole position for the reverse grid race later that afternoon.
Coates made a good start and lead away as ITV’s TV cameras and capacity crowd looked on. By the end of the first lap the safety car was brought out, Coates managed a good restart though and again lead away. It wasn’t until lap 10 when local driver Jack Davidson found a gap on the inside of Coates exiting the final hairpin corner. They ran wheel to wheel through the first few corners before Coates engine momentarily cut out behind the leader, losing him another place to 3rd. He was then out dragged to the first corner on what would be the penultimate lap of the race, falling to 4th and just one position of another podium finish.
Afterwards Coates said, “This weekend the whole field has been so close, every tenth of a second made a difference. I’d hoped the final race could have been a win with a strong starting position but that didn’t work out. We seemed to lack some speed in a straight line in comparison to the others and that made things difficult but the team are already working hard to rectify that. It was good to race at Knockhill again and see a massive crowd for the second time this year, I’m hoping for more of the same at my home race at Croft.”
The next round of the championship takes place at Croft on the 18th / 19th September, Coates home round and the first time the MINI CHALLENGE UK has visited the circuit. Coates will be hoping to claim another win in front of a large home crowd.